Little Green Thumbs Gives Kids an Opportunity to Cook with the Best

Courtesy:William Choy

Little Green Thumbs hosted their first Kids Can Cook event featuring 11 local chefs who helped Tri-Region students prepare a dish.

It was an experience of a lifetime for a group of Tri-Region students.

Little Green Thumbs, which is an organization which helps put garden boxes in schools for kids to grow their own vegetables, hosted their first ever Kids Can Cook Celebration and Fundraiser.

Taking place at Heritage Park, the organization brought together 11 chefs with tie to the Tri-Region to help mentor kids on how to cook and prepare food. The chefs included; Kevin Waddell, Devin Stewart, Leo Shijie, Ryan Bennett, Shane Chartrand, Jeff Cohen, Jonathan Giovannoni, Tina Tolen, Ian Dalwood, Doneta Madge and Steve Marsh. Stony Plain Mayor William Choy was also on hand to help as an additional mentor.

Executive Chef at Freson Brothers Jeff Cohen spoke with One News about the kids involvement in cooking with the local chefs as he says, "They're going to be hands on and they're going to cut the stuff and they're going to mix so it's all hands on with me behind them and setting everything up".

The students involved expressed a lot of excitement as well with Reid from Parkland Schools saying he's really excited to be cooking with a professional chef as he could barely wait to start making his teams dish, a dill dip with fries featuring dill they grew at school. Emma, a grade 6 student from Stony Creek says she's happy to be a part of this program because she loves cooking and has been doing it since she was about 10 years old.

Organizer and Councillor for Stony Plain Judy Bennett says Parkland School Division's Wellness Coordinator Felicia Ochs is the founder of the idea to allow kids to cook with the professional chefs, and also adds the inspiration comes from local high school student Jonathan Giovannoni.

Giovannoni is a grade 10 student at Spruce Grove Composite High School but his resume is way more impressive than that as he has gained quite the attention of some national chefs, and even won the episode of Chopped Junior he appeared on.

Bennett says, "With what he's done we though there are other kids who want to learn how to cook, that maybe don't play sports and don't really have outside interests but they love to cook, and so this is a way for them to express their passions and maybe make a career of culinary arts".

Both Bennett and Chef Jeff see value in showing kids this young the importance of not only cooking but being able to grow your own vegetable as Chef Jeff says, "they're growing stuff and they're eating the stuff that they grow and it's for the future and it's a start". Bennett adds, "that is extremely important when you know that some kids don't know what a carrot looks like unless it's chopped up or something, so that is incredibly important and we want to make sure kids know at least where food comes from".

Bennett also says the hard work of the other organizers, Leanne Weatherald and Shauna Dalwood helped contribute to this event and making it what they hope to be a success. She also commends the hard work of the community and especially the chefs who volunteered as she says, "when i approached them about being part of this, the gleam in their eye, the passion and the enthusiasm that they have for this kind of thing, for saying 'yeah kids i wish I learned about this kind of thing when I was younger, about how to cook and how to prepare a meal' and so we chose chefs whose philosophy align with ours".

The fundraiser also served as an opportunity to raise funds for the Little Green Thumbs Organization. All money raised goes back into the organization who will use it to purchase new equipment such as lights for the gardens in the schools.

Little Green Thumbs has been in schools across the Tri-Region for 5 years now and they hope to continue helping children learn about growing and preparing their own food.


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